Common Photo Restoration Issues

I can’t count the number of times people have walked into the Studio with old photos in need of some TLC.


While every restoration project is unique, there are some common hurdles that I’d like to discuss.  Not only that, we can figure out how to avoid them in the first place.


  1.  Problem:  Faded Photos

Often displaying a picture of a grandparent or great-grandparent is a source of pride and makes for a terrific conversation starter.  But, as the years go by, you may start to notice that the small details are becoming harder to see and it’s as if the print itself is disappearing before your eyes.  This is most commonly caused by direct sunlight and once the process has begun, photographs can begin to deteriorate very quickly.  The first symptom of deterioration will be colour discoloration.



The first and most important thing is to remove the photograph from direct sunlight.  This can mean simply moving it away from a window, or storing it entirely.  If the damage is severe, then I would recommend taking it into a professional.  Regularly rotating your old family photos will help preserve them.  For photos that are going to be permanently on display, ask your framer for museum glass.  This is a costlier product than standard glass, but it will drastically reduce the rate of fading as it blocks out the damaging UV effects of the sun.


2:  Stuck to Glass

This is a problem that can creep up on you.  One day you walk past a picture in a frame and notice a dark spot in a corner, or right along the edge.  When you try to remove the picture to assess the damage, you find it stuck.  The most common cause for this is either humidity or cleaning product seeping underneath the glass and on to the picture.  To avoid the latter, always dust framed prints.  If cleaner is required, put it on to the cloth and do not spray the glass directly.



The first thing to try is a gentle tug.  Sometimes the picture will come loose on its own.  Don’t apply a lot of force and stop if you cannot feel any give.  If it’s a recent photo, you can try to apply water.  The last step modern photos go through is a rinse to remove the last of the chemicals used to develop it.  A little bit of water won’t hurt, but don’t soak the glass.  Again, if there is a lot of pressure or your feel the paper giving way, stop immediately.


These DIY solutions need to be applied with common sense.  In serious cases, I would recommend bringing the photo into a professional photo restorer.  If traditional methods of freeing the image don’t work, then duplication may the simplest way to go.


3:  Photos Stuck Together:

This is another that is quite common.  You finally set some time aside to organize your photos, pull them out of the box and discover that some of them have stuck together.  Humidity is the most common culprit in this matter.  If you’re going to store a large amount of prints together, boxes are fine, but make sure that the area they are kept in remains cool and dry.



Thankfully, this one of the easier solutions.  A small bit of force can sometimes do the trick.  However, as with pictures stuck to glass, stop applying pressure if you feel a lot of resistance or the paper tearing.


Again, running these photos under cool water can be enough to salvage the images.  Before putting them away again, give them plenty of time and space to air dry.



While some of these problems do need a professional touch to restore, some of these issues can be solved at home.  And of course, if you have any doubts or questions about these issues, don’t hesitate to get in touch.